Blog

The Fermi Paradox

Tim Urban, writing for Wait But Why:

Everyone feels something when they’re in a really good starry place on a really good starry night and they look up and see this:

Some people stick with the traditional, feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the insane scale of the universe. Personally, I go for the old “existential meltdown followed by acting weird for the next half hour.” But everyone feels something.

Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too—”Where is everybody?”

This is one of my favorite post on the internet, but I had never linked it here. Now I have. Highly recommended reading.

SuperDuper 3.0

SuperDuper 3.0 has been released:

With that last bit of explanation, I’m happy to say that we’ve reached the end of this particular voyage. SuperDuper! 3.0 (release 100!) is done, and you’ll find the download in the normal places, as well as in the built-in updater, for both Beta and Regular users.

SuperDuper! 3.0 has, literally, many hundreds of changes under the hood to support APFS, High Sierra and all version of macOS from 10.9 to the the present.

SuperDuper! 3.0 is the first bootable backup application to support snapshot copying on APFS, which provides an incredible extra level of safety, security and accuracy when backing up. It’s super cool, entirely supported (after all, it’s what Time Machine uses… and it was first overall), and totally transparent to the user.

Fantastic app that I highly recommend. I have a reoccurring task scheduled to make SuperDuper clones of my entire hard drive as part of my back-up strategy.

We’re Building a Dystopia Just to Make People Click on Ads

TED Talk:

We’re building an artificial intelligence-powered dystopia, one click at a time, says techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci. In an eye-opening talk, she details how the same algorithms companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon use to get you to click on ads are also used to organize your access to political and social information. And the machines aren’t even the real threat. What we need to understand is how the powerful might use AI to control us — and what we can do in response.

This is good.

How Do You Go to a Gym, Though?

Casey Johnston, writing for The Hair Pin:

Kelly—I’m so glad you asked this, because as the Deepak Chopras and Oprahs and etc of the world will tell you, visualization is the key, or at least a key, to success. It’s impossible to prepare for every scenario but you wouldn’t know it to see my exhaustively anxious thought process. I am someone who tends to freeze up, and cannot, as they say, roll with the punches, so having thought through the motions does certainly help me. And Kelly, it can help you too.

This was hilarious.

How to Heal the Left-Liberal Divide

Pete Davis, writing at Current Affairs:

Roughly speaking, these two sides could be characterized as the “populist wing” and the “establishment wing” of the party, but even the divide’s terminology is a point of controversy between the feuding sides. The party’s left wing, for example, wants to call the conflict the “left-liberal divide.” Loyalist Democrats want to play down the divide, calling for unity on the grounds that Democrats are either (if they are younger, millennial types) all members of the Left, or (if they are older, Clinton-era types) all “liberals.” The Right, meanwhile, does not understand the divide, continuing to believe in a monolithic “radical left” filled with “radical liberals.” This leads to the funny situation, as one commentator noticed, where members of both the Left and the Right reach for the same “I made it through college without becoming a liberal” t-shirt.

This is a good piece.

Add Favicons to Tabs in Safari

Favicongrapher:

Faviconographer asks Safari.app for a list of all visible tabs (and their positions) in the current window, and for the URLs of those tabs.

It then uses that information to fetch the corresponding icons from Safari’s Favicon cache (WebpageIcons.db), and draws them above the Safari window.

It’s a “hack” — the cleanest solution would be Apple implementing Favicons in Safari — but it works surprisingly well.

Note: Faviconographer does not “hack” your system. It does not inject code into other apps or manipulate system files. In fact, it doesn’t even require Administrator access!

I’ve gotten used to not having favicons in tabs, but I know a lot of people live by them.

This Is for Boston

Isaiah Thomas, writing at The Players’ Tribune:

But that’s what I think my trade can show people. I want them to see how my getting traded — just like that, without any warning — by the franchise that I scratched and clawed for, and bled for, and put my everything on the line for? That’s why people need to fix their perspective. It’s like, man — with a few exceptions, unless we’re free agents, 99 times out of 100, it’s the owners with the power. So when players are getting moved left and right, and having their lives changed without any say-so, and it’s no big deal … but then the handful of times it flips, and the player has control … then it’s some scandal? Just being honest, but — to me, that says a lot about where we are as a league, and even as a society. And it says a lot about how far we still have to go.

This whole thing is fantastic and worth reading.

Pixelmator Pro Coming This Fall

Pixelmator, my image editor of choice, has announced their new “Pro” app coming later this year:

Pixelmator Pro is an image editor packed full of innovations. From a reimagined editing workflow and simplified editing tools to machine learning powering all-new, intelligent image editing features. So the tools at your fingertips are smarter and more powerful, yet more intuitive and easier to use than ever before.

It looks good.

Scenes From a Debacle in Phoenix

Dave Eggers, writing on Medium:

In downtown Phoenix, in the space of a few blocks, there were 15,000 Trump supporters and 10,000 anti-Trump protesters. There were Bikers for Trump and a platoon from the John Brown Gun Club, an anti-fascist group carrying loaded handguns and semiautomatic weapons. There were roving packs of weightlifters wearing pro-Trump attire. There were men in sleeveless Confederate flag jackets, and there was a giant inflated chicken made to look like Donald Trump. There was a man with a megaphone who asserted throughout the afternoon that homosexuals were going to hell, drunk drivers should die, and women who wore skirts deserved to be raped. There were anarchists, antifa, and hundreds of heavily armed police officers. This was a week after Charlottesville, the country grieving and boiling in the madness of its most irrational era, and in Arizona, it was more than 105 degrees and felt far hotter.
That no one died that day in Phoenix is miraculous.

Sponsor

‘Star Wars: Rebellion’ Expansion Set

Fantasy Flight Games:

Fantasy Flight Games is proud to announce the upcoming release of the Rise of the Empire expansion for Star Wars: Rebellion!

Inspired largely by the characters and events of Rogue One, Rise of the Empire introduces a plethora of new heroes, villains, starships, troopers, and vehicles from that film, alongside other characters, ships, and events from Star Wars: Rebels and the classic trilogy, plus new missions that add more drama and intrigue to your games.

Hannah and I have been playing the original board game, Star Wars: Rebellion, over the past few nights and it’s one of the best board games I’ve played in a long time. Can’t wait to check out this expansion set.

Cloudflare’s Lava Lamps

Katharine Schwab:

When you walk into the San Francisco office of the cloud network and security firm Cloudflare, you’re greeted by a receptionist–and a giant wall of 100 lava lamps. It isn’t just a throwback to the 1960s. The lava lamps act as a random number generator, helping to encrypt the requests that go through Cloudflare, which make up 10% of all internet requests.[…]

Cloudflare turns the “Wall of Entropy” into encryption using a camera that photographs the wall every millisecond of every day of the year. Any one of the company’s systems can turn the display of pixels–which changes based on a multitude of factors, like the movement of the lava, the inclusion of anyone who’s walking by, and the shifting daylight–into random numbers.[…]

In London, they use dual pendulums. While a single pendulum swinging back and forth is very predictable, mathematicians have shown that if you take a pendulum and hang another pendulum from it, you’ll create a system that no one has figured out how to model.

The E-Mail Larry Page Should Have Written to James Damore

The Economist:

Your interpretation is wrong. Your memo was a great example of what’s called “motivated reasoning”—seeking out only the information that supports what you already believe. It was derogatory to women in our industry and elsewhere. Despite your stated support for diversity and fairness, it demonstrated profound prejudice. Your chain of reasoning had so many missing links that it hardly mattered what your argument was based on. We try to hire people who are willing to follow where the facts lead, whatever their preconceptions. In your case we clearly made a mistake.

Have you ever noticed how no one takes sentences that start “I’m not a racist, but…” at face value? Here’s why, in the words of Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones” (season 7, episode 1). When Sansa Stark tells him: “They respect you, they really do, but…,” Snow laughs and comes back with: “What did father used to say? Everything before the word ‘but’ is horseshit.”

On Subscription Software

Matt Gemmell:

My favourite writing app, Ulysses, recently went subscription-only. I signed up. Subscriptions always court controversy, understandably. Here are a few thoughts.

I believe in the argument that developers need sustainable income. Paying once and then getting free updates for years isn’t reasonable. Paid upgrades can help, but subscriptions are probably a more stable business model. I can see the attraction. Beyond that, who knows?

And:

If it’s something I rarely use, I’ll probably just pick another app. If I’m not invested in it (in terms of its specific workflow, features, user experience and such), it’s even easier for me to just move away.

But if I can truthfully answer yes to one or more of those questions, and the subscription isn’t extortionate on a monthly basis, then I’ll sign up and see how I feel about it later. If I’m strongly committed, I’ll sign up for a year. If I’m less sure, one month. I’ll review it before renewal, in either case — and again, I only even reach this stage for apps which pass the above test; a tiny minority. If the apps don’t see timely updates and bug-fixes during the subscription period, obviously I’d be motivated to quit. I think that’s reasonable.

That’s what it all boils down to for me. Am I super-comfortable with subscription software? Nope. I doubt I’ll ever love the idea. But I can deal with it, if it keeps the handful of apps I really, really need updated and available.

Basically how I feel about the whole thing. And yes, I also subscribed to Ulysses. I use the app every single day.

How “Nice White People” Benefit from Charlottesville and White Supremacy

Lauren Duca, writing for Teen Vogue:

For white people who don’t self-identify as disciples of Richard Spencer, David Duke, and/or the ancient demon Beelzebub, there is extreme anxiety around the accusation of racism. We see this fear of blame in Trump’s statement. “Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama” seems to say, ‘Hey, there’s been a tense racial climate in this country forever. It’s not anyone’s fault!’ Except the opposite is true. American white supremacy has been a problem forever, and it is all of our fault, fellow white people.

White people benefit from white supremacy. Period. Peggy McIntosh spelled this out for us in 1989, but apparently we’re still not quite getting it. Her famous piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” lays out undeniable ways that it is simply easier to be white in this country, like always having a boss who is a fellow white person, or, you know, being able to eat Skittles at night without getting shot. Most white people didn’t ask for this privilege. Actually, that’s the whole idea. White privilege is an inherent advantage that easily goes unnoticed and unacknowledged. Rather than stuffing down the sense of shame associated with this obvious unfairness, why not work to even the playing field?

Lauren Duca’s column has become a must read for me.

Is Social Media Making You Miserable?

Markham Heid, writing at Time:

One recent study examined the links between Facebook use and wellbeing. “We found that the more you use Facebook over time, the more likely you are to experience negative physical health, negative mental health and negative life satisfaction,” says study author Holly Shakya, assistant professor and social media researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

Scott Belsky Interview on Startups

Business Insider:

Scott Belsky is an early investor in startups such as Uber, Pinterest, and Warby Parker who began his career at Goldman Sachs.

He realized quickly that Goldman wasn’t for him, so he spent the next four years saving $18,000. He used the money and some help from those close to him to quit and bootstrap a startup called Behance. Belsky didn’t take a paycheck for the next two years.

In the end, the hard work paid off. Adobe purchased Behance for a reported $150 million, and Belsky went out of his way to turn half of his employees into millionaires from the sale.

This was a really good interview.

Cool App: Streaks

After reading the MacStories review of the Streaks app, I decided to give it a shot:

Streaks helps you set personal goals and stick to them using a combination of reminders and tracking. One of the hallmarks of the app, and what undoubtedly won it an Apple Design Award in 2016, is its obsessive attention to ease-of-use. By the very nature of its mission, Streaks is an app in which you shouldn’t spend a lot of time. Whether it’s in the main app, widget, or Apple Watch app, Streaks is designed to remove the friction of turning goals into habits by tracking tasks in a way that doesn’t become tedious, which makes it important to be able to mark items as completed quickly and easily.

I’ve only been using it for three days so far, but I think this will be something I stick with for a while. I like the idea of having a few (currently only four) streaks set up to help form some habits I’ve been having trouble with.